Report by BWV community reporter, Laura Hillier
Photograph by Mireya Gonzalez
What is the Charter?
The ‘Bristol Women in Business Charter’ was officially launched on 26th March at City Hall. The Charter has been developed by the Women in Business Task Group of Bristol’s Women’s Commission, and is a city-wide initiative to increase gender equality in the workplace.
To do so, the Charter sets out seven key goals:
- The promotion and availability of flexible and part-time working, especially at senior levels that attract higher levels of pay and conditions.
- A commitment to increase the numbers of women at senior levels and on the board.
- Making at least one member of the senior executive team responsible for reporting on gender equality and inclusion.
- Encouraging and supporting female employees in lower paid and lower skilled occupations to progress through the organisation, through appropriate training and other on-going support.
- A commitment to close the gender pay gap.
- A focus on implementing recruitment, appraisal, personal development and promotion processes that are non-discriminatory towards women and are free from unconscious bias.
- Supporting women where they are under-represented, through mentoring and women’s networks.
Bristol-based businesses and organisations that sign-up to the Charter are demonstrating their commitment to improving conditions for women in in their workplace. When signing-up, businesses must indicate which goals they are planning to achieve and must set themselves targets for the next 12 months. To remain a signatory, the progress made towards these goals must be reported at the end of this period.
Being a signatory of the Charter is beneficial to businesses themselves, as well as their employees. For instance, signatories are able to access support from the Charter’s network to achieve their goals and attend events focused on achieving the Charter’s aims.
The event was attended by a wide range of people representing a hugely diverse mix of organisations and businesses in Bristol. Mayor Marvin Rees and the Lord Lieutenant of the City and Council of Bristol, Mrs Peaches Golding OBE, were also in attendance at the Charter’s launch.
Jane Ginnever, Chair of the Women in Business Task Group, opened the speeches at the event, by explaining the significance of Bristol’s efforts towards improving the workplace for women – “we believe the Charter is the first city-wide initiative of its kind in the UK dedicated to gender equality”. Jane spoke about the importance of gender equality for businesses, and thanked all the members of the Task Group that came together to make the Charter a reality.
Representatives of eight ‘founding signatories’ of the Charter then spoke about what the Charter means to their businesses personally, and for Bristol as a city. Helen Godwin (Bristol City Council) explained how important it was for the Council to be one of the founding signatories, and highlighted their gratitude towards the “work that the Women’s Commission and the Task Group do to put women at the heart of the city”. Bristol Airport’s Chief Executive Officer, Dave Lees, explained that “I think it’s great that Bristol is acting as a pioneer. Gender equality is essential at every stage of the journey”.
Hearing the founding signatories announce their goals for meeting the Charter’s aims was extremely encouraging. For example, Liz Dunn (Burges Salmon) asserted the organisation’s goals towards “improving the gender balance at partner and senior levels at the firm”, and Suzanne Carrie (UWE) explained that the university is committed to “helping lower pay-grade staff to progress and move into higher-paying roles”. Charley Maher described how Pelican are “focusing on recruitment processes, the role of mentoring and buddies, and making sure we’re giving equal opportunities to men and women in business”.
Jonathan Williams (Bishop Fleming) explained that “highest performing businesses are those that are more diverse. We’re looking forward to seeing more businesses signing up”. OVO were also present, and were represented by Adrian Letts, who expressed the company’s excitement to be part of efforts to improve gender diversity, cultural diversity and sustainability. Vanessa Moon (Moon Consulting, and also a Task Group member) described the Launch as feeling “like the beginning of something big and meaningful”.
Following the speeches, there was time for attendees to network with each other. The sense of positivity towards the Charter and commitment towards meaningful change was felt in the room, with many animated discussions going on about the Charter. I spoke to a few of the Task Group members, including Donna Speed (We The Curious), who said of the event “I’m really delighted by the amazing group of women so dedicated to fight for equality for women in business”. Ruth Ginnever emphasised the importance of the Charter for the city, as it “helps to encourage and promote people coming to Bristol”. In addition, Task Group member Jo Fairweather (OVO) said “greater balance and diversity as a whole can only help build greater businesses and future for the city of Bristol”.
The potential benefits of the Charter for Bristol as a whole were also recognised by other attendees. For example, Nina Searle (TLT) commented that “equality is top of the agenda – not just gender, but all diversity and inclusion. A balance of perspectives and life experiences is important, which leads to better solution”’. The benefits of improving equality in the workplace are clear, which could have a knock-on positive effect for Bristol overall. As Mayor Marvin Rees summarised, “by bringing diversity into positions of city leadership, the city will perform better”.
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